Making Green Living Logical

Electronic devices such as cell phones, televisions, and computers have become very common in our society.  People buy new items every day, which means that many things are becoming obsolete every day.  The average life of a cell phone is 18 months, which means that something needs to be done with the old one when it’s replaced.

Because of how electronic devices are made, it is necessary to dispose of them properly.  But it is important to know why this is necessary, as well as what proper disposal is.  Many of these devices have rechargeable batteries.  These batteries can contain lead, mercury, nickel, cadmium, and lithium.  The cathode ray tubes (CRT) in old televisions and computer monitors are comprised of about 20% lead.  And plain old circuit boards can contain lead, mercury and cadmium.  Lead and mercury are two metals that receive a lot of press, but cadmium is a known human carcinogen.  The bottom line is that we don’t want these toxic metals leaching into soil and groundwater, where they can make people sick and cause problems for the environment.  Any waste item that has a circuit board or battery should be properly recycled.

In the past, it was difficult to locate proper recycling centers for such devices, but it’s getting much easier to do the right thing.  Many people are under the impression that it is very expensive to get rid of an old TV or computer.  But many retailers accept these and other items at little to no cost to you.  Some places will give you a discount on a new item just for turning in an old one.  Most cell phone retailers will accept old cell phones at no cost to you.  You can even donate some items to charities.

Some items require preparation before being turned in for recycling.  Clear old contacts out of cell phones, and erase hard drives.   There are some recyclers that will clear off the hard drive for you, but it’s prudent to do it yourself, or at least confirm that the place you’re taking it will do it for you.

An area of debate is the recyclability of alkaline batteries.  These common, one-time-use batteries are comprised of metals and chemicals (though not lead, at least not since 1996), and are touted by many as safe for the landfill.  Still, there is some debate as to whether or not it is responsible to simply throw them in the trash, especially when the materials used to make them could be recycled.  Finding recycling programs for these batteries is a little challenging, but it can be done.  One good source is The Big Green Box, which offers a great way to recycle alkaline batteries and many other types of electronics.

Check our Hazardous Waste page for links to recycling and hazardous waste disposal programs in a few major cities.

Check out the EPA Electronics Donation and Recycling website for additional info.

Electronic Waste (e-waste)

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